US stresses Pak-Afghan cooperation as key to stabilize Afghanistan

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WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (APP): Top US defence officials have acknowledged
sacrifices rendered by Pakistani troops in fighting terrorism and called
for a better cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan to manage the rugged border region between the two countries.
At a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary
Defence James Mattis and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen Joseph Dunford said that Pakistani troops had suffered severe losses in the border
region.
Gen Dunford also acknowledged that Pakistani forces had done a lot
in the border area with Afghanistan and suffered significant casualties.
He, however, noted lack of cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan
in managing the border area, saying Pakistan and the United States had better degree of cooperation and visibility along the rugged border area.
“When we were actually doing that, we had a better degree of
cooperation along the border, we had a better visibility – that wasn’t replaced by effective Afghan-Pakistan cooperation,” Gen Dunford said
and added,”That has to be one of the key elements of our success,
moving forward.”
He said in his judgement “what we need is an effective bilateral
relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan to manage the border area.”
There had been a broad framework on the border cooperation during the
last three-four years, but there had not been a satisfactory progress
made, he added.
The US Joint Chief of Staff said they had been encouraged by the
recent visit of Pakistan’s army chief to Kabul where he had good
meetings with the Afghan leadership. US officials were also engaged in talks. There was now a commitment to address the issues and do better coordination along the border area, he added.
Gen Dunford agreed with the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen
John W. Nicholson, that the effort in the country was stalemated and
the coalition forces were not winning the war. The international efforts have suffered after the NATO Resolute Support mission by the
International Security Assistance Force transitioned to an advisory
effort in January, 2015.
“Since January 2015, we have advised and accompanied Afghan special
operations units at the tactical level, but our advisory effort for conventional forces has generally been limited to the Afghan corps and institutional level,” Gen Dunford said.
“My military assessment is that we drew down our advisory effort
and combat support for the Afghan forces too far and too fast,,, as a result, the Taliban expanded territorial and population control and inflicted significant casualties on the Afghan army and police, while
the campaign lost momentum.”
Responding to a question, Gen Dunford said military objectives in
Afghanistan included “defeating ISIS and al-Qaida in Afghanistan and
ensuring other terrorist groups were unable to launch attacks against
the homeland, US citizens or our allies; further developing Afghan
forces that were capable of managing residual violence with limited international support; supporting President Ghani’s effort to secure
key population and economic centers; and providing an enduring counterterrorism partnership with Afghanistan to protect our shared interests in South Asia.”
Earlier, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator
John McCain criticized the lack of information on the new Afghan
strategy by President Trump, saying that was totally unacceptable.
He said in future, the committee needed regular flow of information.
He also stated that while the strategy spoke of political
reconciliation in Afghanistan, it lacked details about any such
political settlement. Secretary Mattis stated that the goal was to
stabilize Afghanistan through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace
process.